Catching the break and riding the wave with David Nicholls

A Very British Breakfast by Philip Lawrence

I’ve been to a few of the Breakfast Clubs before, as well as to the 2012 Screenwriter’s Festival and most of the talks I’ve seen have been conducted by people with lots of experience of giving lectures on their specialist subject. It can sometimes be very (for want of a better word) American. An inspiring speaker with gusto that charges your batteries and sends you back out with your pen already in your hand. It can be a thrilling start to your day.

While David Nicholls was no less knowledgeable (and not wishing to take anything away from the great speakers I’ve seen) there was a definite relaxed honesty about him. No bravado. No sound bites. No power point. Not even so much as a flip chart. Just a conversation between writers.

And David was thoroughly self-effacing. For every success he told us about , he was quick to admit there were quiet gaps in between. While keen to talk us through his screenwriting career, he was happy to tell us his regrets, mistakes he’s made down the line, admit the current block he was working through and confess that a lot of his success has been down to his friendships.

Out of all the brilliant, passionate and educational speakers I’ve listened to, David was the one I’ve empathised with the most. We seemed to plenty of similarities including both starting as actors,  both having channelled bitter understudy experiences into scripts and both currently in a writing black spot. I wish I’d made more of a beeline to chat with him after.

There was no evidence of the cut throat ruthlessness we’re often told you need to survive in this business. Before us, just a relaxed guy making his way by being charming and nice. Fighting his corner where necessary, but above all, just someone you want to work with.

For that reason, more than any other speaker, it gave me hope. I’m not a driven media student, rocketing out of university with an English degree. I’m just a laidback fortysomething trying to tell his stories and make a few friends along the way.

While David’s chat was very informative and packed full of good advice (read as many screenplays as you can, have a sense of film history, let your screenplays go once they’re in the hands of a director, when you write, have a sense of the response you want from the audience) the biggest thing I took from it is you can get a degree of success in this business by helping people up the ladder rather than climbing up over them.

Philip Lawrence is an actor/ writer whose written work includes plays at The Union Theatre, Etcetera Theatre, Soho Theatre Studio and Doctor Who for Big Finish Productions.
twitter @philip_lawrence

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